On Brendan Donnelly (and Jeff Bagwell)

Donnelly in 2007 (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor and used with permission)

One of the many arguments brought up when PEDs are discussed is the impact it will have on a player’s career long-term.  Take Jeff Bagwell, for example.  He has never been connected to PEDs except that he flourished in a time when many around him have been now outed for having used them.  His name has never shown up on a  list, no player has ever outed him as a user, and yet when he became eligible for the Hall of Fame, some writers actually didn’t vote for him because they were suspicious.

So here’s Jeff Bagwell, a guy never officially accused of or outed as being a PED user losing Hall of Fame votes based on the idea that he MIGHT have been a user.  Earlier this year, I ranted about this at great length.  As I write this entry, it still makes me mad.  But I’m not here to write about Bagwell today.  I’m here to write, in part, about Brendan Donnelly.

I won’t lie…I loved it when the Sox got Donnelly for two reasons:  It’s always nice to have someone representing the clan on your team and he was a little batshit.  I dig a pitcher who gets into his job as obsessively as Donnelly always seemed to.  Today it was released that Donnelly will be retired from baseball at the age of 39.  He’s starting a new life with a new child and given his age, the way his skills have lessened and the fact that, essentially, no team wanted him, he decided it was time to call it a career.

Doug Miller over at MLB.com has a nice write-up of Donnelly’s decision (and career).  The article has one glaring omission, though. No mention of Brendan Donnelly being one of the names in the Mitchell Report.  I don’t necessarily have a problem with this.  I think it’s long been proven that not all of those named in the Mitchell Report have been proven to have used.  BUT the fact remains that his name is in there and you would think that it would be something mentioned in a wrap-up of his career and life.  Personally, I’m kind of glad it wasn’t and there is a part of me that hopes this becomes the trend.  That people stop focusing on the “maybes” of the so-called “Steroid Era” and focus on the careers of the individual players.

Granted, this article was sanctioned by MLB so I suppose it stands to reason that they would want to clean it up…can’t have people remembering what a shitstorm the league created, right?  It’s interesting to note that Rob Bradford at WEEI.com wasted no time in mentioning the Mitchell Report today in his entry about Donnelly.  So I guess I’m back to square one.  MLB doesn’t think it’s worth mentioning but a well-respected baseball writer does.  We can’t change history, he’s in there, regardless of why or how legitimate the mention was, it’s a part of his history and the Mitchell Report is, unfortunately, a huge part of MLB’s history.

Do we make the decision that Donnelly’s explanation is valid enough to forget his inclusion in the report?

“In 2004, I was having multiple physical problems and was concerned about not getting back on the field for even close to the level I had experienced. I made a phone call to Radomski. We discussed Anavar.

“Upon learning that Anavar was classified as a steroid, I realized that was not an option. That was the end of it. Yes, I called him. But I did not purchase or receive anything from him. I never took Deca or Anavar. I do want to fully support the testing program of Major League Baseball, and I support wider testing.”

And if we do, is it fair to peg Jeff Bagwell or anyone else from that “era” as a user or possible user without taking into account the fact that there is nothing to connect them to PEDs?  What if they have a good excuse/explanation that we could believe?

Each day I find my feelings about PEDs, or at least about the way we treat those suspected of PED use, changing.  When I first read that MLB story about Donnelly, my initial reaction was annoyance at the Mitchell Report not being mentioned.  I’m not a big fan of changing history to suit a narrative (MLB’s story is, essentially, about how unique and talented Donnelly was) but as I think more about it I’m wondering what I thought the point would be to bring up his inclusion in the report and  his subsequent defense of it when absolutely nothing came of it.

Which brings me back to Bagwell.  If there aren’t any repercussions for the people listed in the report, why reference it at all?  And if you aren’t going to reference the “official” report on PED use in baseball, how can you take a player who wasn’t mentioned in the report and hasn’t been mentioned by anyone but a few holier-than-thou baseball writers and punish him for something you can’t connect him to?

I hope that very soon the writers blackballing Bagwell  come to the realization that they’re being petty, stupid and just plain mean.  He shouldn’t be punished just because he played in an era they choose to focus on as being tainted.

I wish Brendan Donnelly much luck.  Many of us dream of being able to retire at 39 and spend the rest of our lives living comfortably with our families.  I hope he finds happiness in this new part of his journey through life but something tells me we’ll probably be seeing him very soon on the MLB Network!

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